Glossary of Law Terms
absolute majority More than half of the total votes of those eligible to vote.
absolute monarchy A system of government in which a monarch (a king, queen or emperor) holds total
power, and can make laws without having to consult a parliament or the people.
accountable Able to be called on to explain your actions.
Act of Parliament A law made by parliament; a Bill which has passed all three readings in each house
and has received the royal assent.
activist A person who is active in movements to achieve political or social change.
activity A deed or action.
Acts Interpretation An Act of Parliament which gives guidance as to the meaning of expressions used in
Act other Acts and which gives details of procedures to be followed under other Acts.
address (to the A formal message to the governor-general or the Queen by a House of Parliament
governor-general or stating the view of the house or making a request. The message is often in answer
the Queen) to the governor-general's speech on the opening of a session of parliament
(address-in-reply), but may also be a message of congratulations, sympathy or
farewell, or a request that the governor-general, as a constituent part of the
parliament, perform a particular action.
address-in-reply The formal answer of each house to the speech made by the Queen, or the
governor-general as her representative, at the opening of each session of the
adjourn To put off, postpone or suspend.
adjournment debate A debate at the end of each sitting day of a house when Members make speeches
on any subject on the motion to end the sitting.
administer To run, look after or have charge of; for example, a minister administers his or her
administration 1.The running of public affairs or government.
2.The people who run government.
administrator 1.A person who directs, organises, or manages.
2.A person who carries out the duties of the governor-general when the governor-
general is away.
adversary system An approach or system where one person or group opposes another.
advice Information or an opinion someone gives you to help you decide what to do.
adviser Someone who gives you advice to help you decide what to do.
advisory body A group of people who say what they think should be done; a group which gives
affirmation A solemn declaration, such as a promise to tell the truth in a court, made by people
who do not want to swear an oath.
affirmation of A declaration made by Members of Parliament that they will be loyal to the Queen.
agency An organisation or part of an organisation which has a particular job or set of tasks,
usually delegated to it by another body.
agenda A list of tasks to be done or items to be discussed at a meeting.
agreement The same way of thinking.
all-party Made up of people from all political parties.
allegiance Being true or faithful to a ruler or state.
allies A group of countries or people that band together to fight a common enemy or to
achieve a particular goal; for example, the Allied powers in World War II included the
United Kingdom, the British Commonwealth, the United States and the Soviet
Union, who fought against Germany, Italy and Japan.
amendment An alteration (to a Bill, or an Act or the Constitution).
anarchy A society without government or law. It can also mean political and social disorder
through lack of government control.
annexation To take over a territory and add it to a larger state; for example, Queensland's
annexation of the Murray Islands in 1879.
anniversary Remembrance of an event on the date it happened.
annual report (of a A written account of the more important things done by a government department or
department, authority, which is presented once a year to the parliament.
another place A term sometimes used in one chamber of a two-chamber parliament to refer to the
anthem A song of praise, often about a particular country, when it is called a national
appeal 1.A call or request for something needed.
2.A request for review by a higher authority; for example, the High Court is the final
court of appeal.
appropriation Bill A Bill which, if passed by parliament, will allow the government to spend money it
has gathered from the community through taxes and charges, on government
services, roads, dams, schools, etc.
aristocracy A state ruled by people of noble birth or a privileged upper class. Also means
members of a social class considered to be socially or otherwise superior.
armistice A stage in a war when both sides stop fighting to discuss possible peace terms.
assembly A number of people gathered together for a special purpose; law-making body
(usually a lower house).
assent To agree to or approve; for example, the governor-general assents to Bills after they
have been passed by the two houses.
assimilation When people of differing ethnic heritage acquire or are urged to acquire the basic
attitudes, habits and mode of life of another national culture.
Athenian citizen A citizen of the ancient Greek city-state of Athens.
attendant A member of the parliamentary staff who assists the Members in a chamber when
parliament is sitting.
attorney-general The chief law officer of a government and the minister responsible for the
management of legal matters.
audit An inspection and checking of records or accounts, especially those concerned with
auditor-general The chief accounting officer of the Commonwealth, who inspects all government
accounts and reports to parliament on whether government departments and
authorities spend or receive money correctly and legally.
Australia Day A celebration of the Australian nation on the anniversary of the arrival of the First
Fleet at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788.
Australian citizen A citizen of the Commonwealth of Australia, either by birth or by naturalisation.
Australian A party formed in 1977. The Democrats claim to represent all Australians. They
Democrats want more government control of the economy to reduce unemployment, greater
protection for the environment and less foreign ownership of Australian resources.
Australian Electoral An organisation which runs national elections and referendums and gives people
Commission information about elections.
Australian The government journal containing official government notices, such as lists of
Government appointments and bankruptcies.
Australian Labor A political party formed nationally in 1901 and given its present name in 1918. Labor
Party wants greater equality in the distribution of income, wealth and opportunity. It
believes that private businesses produce injustices and inequalities and so need to
be controlled by the government for the benefit of workers and the common good.
Australian Loan An organisation made up of the prime minister and the State premiers which
Council decides how much money each government may borrow in the financial year ahead.
Australian Senate The main reference book on the law, practice and procedure of the Senate.
authority 1.The right to decide or judge; the right to control or command.
2.A person or body that has such rights.
aye The word used for voting 'yes' in parliament.
ayes The votes of Members in parliament who vote 'yes'.
backbench 1.Those Members of Parliament who are not ministers or shadow ministers; also
known as private Senators or Members.
2.The seats where such Members sit.
backbencher A Member of Parliament who is not a minister or shadow minister.
balance of power 1.An arrangement of countries, such that none of them will be strong enough to
control all the others.
2.The ability of one person or party to decide an issue by the way they vote, if two
opposing parties are evenly divided.
ballot 1.A ticket or paper you fill in to record your vote.
2.To select by a secret vote.
3.The process by which a choice is made.
ballot box A box in which voters put their ballot papers.
ballot paper A ticket or paper which lists the names of the people (candidates) who are seeking a
place in parliament, and on which the voter marks his or her choice or choices.
bar (of the Senate, A barrier at the main entrance to each of the Senate and House of Representatives
or the House of chambers, beyond which only Senators go in the case of the Senate and Members
Representatives) in the case of the House of Representatives.
bargaining An agreement between two parties to reach an acceptable agreement.
bells Electronic bells which call Members in to the chambers at the beginning of a sitting,
because a vote is to be taken, or because there are not enough Members present.
bias A prejudice or an unfair view.
bicameral Having two chambers or houses, especially of a law-making body.
Bill A proposal for a law which has been presented to parliament.
bill of rights A bill of rights is a set of protections of human rights set out in a country's
constitution, or in an Act of Parliament.
Bill of Rights An Act of the British Parliament, stating some of the basic rights of the people of the
(United Kingdom) United Kingdom, which became law in 1689 and some provisions of which apply in
bipartisan Representing, having or supported by, two parties.
blue-ribbon An electorate where a majority of voters usually votes for the same Member or
electorate party, thus making it a 'safe' seat for that Member or party.
branch A section of a political party that draws members from a local area.
bring down the To place a plan before parliament each year showing what money the government
Budget expects to receive and how the government wants to spend it.
British Empire A number of countries that were conquered or settled by Great Britain and ruled
over by the British monarch. These countries have since become independent, but
many, including Australia, still have the British monarch as their head of state, while
others have become republics but remain within the Commonwealth of Nations.
by-election A special election held to fill the seat of a Member of the House of Representatives
who has retired or died.
Cabinet The group of senior ministers in a government who decide government policy.
Cabinet government A system of government in which the most important decisions are made by Cabinet
ministers, who are Members of Parliament and who are supported by a majority in
the lower house.
Cabinet minister 1.A minister who is a member of the Cabinet.
2.A senior or leading minister.
Cabinet room A room in Parliament House in which the Cabinet ministers meet.
Cabinet solidarity A united view or position presented by the Cabinet. Once a decision is made by the
Cabinet all the ministers must support it.
campaign A competition for votes by people who are seeking election to parliament.
candidate Someone who stands for election to parliament.
canvass 1.To ask for votes, support or opinions.
2.To look at carefully, to discuss.
carriage Management, responsibility for, or control; passing of a Bill in parliament or a motion
in a meeting.
cast a vote To make a choice between candidates by filling in a ticket or ballot paper, or by
some other means.
casting vote A vote met by the chair of a meeting which decides the matter when votes are
casual vacancy A vacancy in the Senate that is caused when a Senator resigns or dies before his or
her term has expired.
caucus The Members of Parliament belonging to a particular political party; used particularly in
relation to the Labor Party.
cause A goal or aim of a group of activists for social or political change; for example, the
preservation of the environment is the cause of environmentalists.
Cavaliers Supporters of King Charles I in his struggle against Parliament in the Civil War. Also
known as Royalists, their name means 'mounted soldier', based on the French word for
celebration An event held to mark an important occasion.
censure motion A motion moved in either house which is very critical of, and which seeks to attach
blame to, a minister or another Member, or the government as a whole.
chair 1.(in federal parliament) the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of
Representatives, or someone who is occupying their place, for example the Deputy-
President or the Acting Speaker, when presiding over the Senate or the House of
2.Someone who is in charge of a meeting.
3.To be in charge of a meeting or preside over a meeting.
chairman or Someone who is in charge of a meeting.
Chairman of A member who is in charge of the 'committee of the whole' - a committee consisting of all
Committee the members of the Senate or the House of Representatives, usually formed to consider
a Bill in detail.
chamber 1.The meeting room of a house of parliament.
2.A law-making body.
chancellor The leader of the government in the German Parliament.
Charter A formal statement of legal or political rights, such as the English Magna Carta (the
Great Charter of 1215), or a demand that those rights be given (the British People's
Charter of the 1830s and 1840s). Also means a contract or permission to carry out
Chartism Nineteenth-century movement in Britain which sought the democratic reforms outlined in
the People's Charter.
Chartist A supporter of the movement to have the People's Charter adopted by parliament.
citizen A member of a city, state or nation who enjoys its rights and protection, and of whom
loyalty is expected.
citizen-initiated In some countries, citizens may initiate a referendum to remove an existing law or to
referendum introduce a new law.
citizenship The rights that are enjoyed by a citizen, such as the right to vote and to live permanently
rights in a particular country.
city-state A small state consisting of a city and its surrounding territory.
civic rights The rights that allow citizens or members of a community to take part in community
civil law The law of a state or nation regulating the conduct of citizens in non-criminal areas.
civil liberty 1.Freedom to act, assemble, think or speak as you wish, regulated only as much as is
needed for the good of other people.
2.(in plural) basic human rights.
civil rights The rights that allow a person to live freely in a society and be fairly treated. They
include freedom of movement and of religion; the right to open a business and own
property; the right to a fair trial; and equal access to public facilities.
civil war A war in which different groups within a particular country fight one another; for
example, the war between the forces of King Charles I and Parliament in Britain in the
1640s, or the North and South of the United States in the 1860s.
clause A separate numbered item in a Bill; once a Bill becomes an Act, a clause is known as
Clerk The most senior permanent official in each house of a parliament.
Clerk's certificate The statement signed by the Clerk of a house to state that a Bill has passed that
house, with or without amendments.
cliff-hanger A contest, election, etc that is so close that the result is not certain until the very end.
closure A way of ending a debate and causing a vote to be taken straight away on the matter
being discussed, even though some Members want to keep discussing the matter.
coalition The joining together of two or more groups or parties, usually to form a government or
coalition A government formed from more than one political party.
coat of arms A set of symbols which represent a family, city, locality, state or nation. These were
originally worn over armour and are usually in a shield shape.
cognate debate A debate in which two or more related matters are discussed at the same time.
Cold War The armed but non-violent confrontation, between the anti-communist 'Western'
nations, especially the United States, and the former Soviet Union, 1940s to 1980s.
colony A settlement in a new land which is ruled by the parent country; all the States in
Australia began as British colonies.
commemoration The act of remembering an event associated with the life of a person, place or nation.
For example, on ANZAC Day each year, Australians commemorate the landing at
Gallipoli on 25 April, 1915, to remember those who have given their lives in wars.
commission 1.A written paper authorising or instructing someone to perform certain duties or giving
someone a particular duty.
2.An order, direction or particular duty given by someone who is in charge.
3.One or more people who have been instructed to inquire into certain matters or who
have been given particular official duties.
committee A group of people selected from a larger group to discuss, investigate or report on a
committee of the A committee consisting of all the members of the Senate or the House of
whole Representatives, usually formed to consider a Bill in detail.
common law Law based on custom or court decisions, as distinct from statute law.
commonwealth 1.An old word meaning the common good or general welfare which was
used as the name for the Australian Federation in 1901.
2.A group of countries or peoples united by a common interest, in
particular the Commonwealth of Nations which used to make up the
Commonwealth Government The government of Australia can be called the Federal Government, the
Commonwealth Government or the Australian Government.
Commonwealth An association of parliaments of countries that make up the
Parliamentary Association Commonwealth of Nations, including Australia, the United Kingdom,
Canada, Papua New Guinea and India.
communism A system in which people share the ownership of all goods and property; a
system of government such as in the former Soviet Union where the
government owns everything and denies political freedoms.
Communist Party A political party professing the principles of communism.
Communist Party of The original Communist Party of Australia, established in 1920.
community A social group associated with a particular place, activity or cultural
compensation Money or other goods given to make up for something which has been
taken away or lost. For example, people are entitled to compensation if
their land is taken away by government for another use.
compulsory Forced, required.
compulsory voting A system of voting in which everyone entitled to vote is required to register
as a voter and, at elections, to have his or her name marked off the
electoral roll as having received and returned a ballot paper.
concurrent power Power which, under the Constitution, may be exercised by both the
Commonwealth and the States.
conference A meeting of representatives of both Houses of Parliament to discuss an
issue on which the houses do not agree.
confidence The support of more than half the Members of the House of
Representatives for the government, which may be shown by voting on a
particular major issue.
Congress (USA) The national law-making body or parliament of the United States of
America, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
conscience vote Occasionally a political party does not have a point of view on an issue
and allows party members to vote according to their individual views.
consensus Agreement by all members of a group.
consequence The result or effect of an action.
conservation Keeping wilderness, using resources wisely and retaining heritage
conservative Someone who wants to keep the existing way of life and is suspicious of
constituency The electorate or area, or the people in it, which a Member of Parliament
constituent Someone who votes or lives in an electorate or area which a Member of
constitution The principles by which an organisation, including a country or a state, is
governed. It also means the document setting out those principles.
constitutional 1.Having the power of, or existing because of, a basic set of rules.
2.In agreement with, or depending on, a basic set of rules.
constitutional convention 1.An unwritten rule or practice, or an established custom, relating to the
operation of a constitution.
2.A meeting called to consider or draw up a constitution.
constitutional monarchy A country in which a king or queen is the highest authority, but where that
person has to act in accordance with a constitution, and whose powers are
limited by the constitution.
contempt (of the Senate or Disobedience to the authority or orders of the Houses of Parliament,
the House of interference with or obstruction of their work or the work of Senators or
convention 1.A large meeting.
2.A rule, often unwritten, which is generally or widely accepted.
convict A person who has been found guilty of a serious crime, especially those
sent as punishment from Britain to Australia.
council The government of a local area such as a city or a shire.
council chamber The room where a local council meets.
court A body set up to administer justice, to find the guilt or innocence of
someone accused of a crime, or to ensure that people's legal rights are
protected. Also means the people who surround a monarch.
criminal A person who has committed a crime against people or property, severe
enough to be punished by law.
criminal law A body of law dealing with criminal behaviour.
criminal record The record of a person's crimes and punishments.
cross the floor To vote with an opposing party.
crossbench One of a set of seats for Members of Parliament who belong to neither the
government nor the opposition parties; seats for minor parties and
Crown, the 1.The king or queen, or the highest governing power in a monarchy.
2.The Queen exercising her legal powers through one or more of her
agents, usually a minister or ministers.
crown land Land which is controlled by the government since it is officially owned by
the monarch (the Crown).
crown privilege A special exemption claimed by ministers which may allow some important
papers to be kept secret (now usually called 'public interest immunity').
culture All the different ways of living built up by a group of human beings, which
are passed on from one generation to another.
custom Habit or usual practice.
customs Duties paid on goods coming into a country; before Federation, duties that
were paid when moving goods from one Australian colony to another. Also
means traditions of a particular society.
Daily Program A program or agenda which shows the items of business with which the House of
Representatives is expected to deal on a particular day.
deadlock The point in a disagreement or argument when neither side will give way and a
stand-off is reached; such a disagreement between two houses of parliament.
debate A formal discussion on a Bill or other topic in which different views are put; an
organised contest in which two teams of speakers put forward opposite views on a
declaration of poll An announcement of the results of voting at an election.
Declaration of the A statement made by the National Assembly in France in 1789. It is one of the
Rights of Man and founding statements of what we accept as a set of basic human rights for people
defeat 1.To overcome or beat in a contest or battle.
2.The state of being beaten in a contest or battle.
deficit The amount by which a sum of money falls short of the required amount.
delegate A representative at a conference.
delegated Laws in the form of regulations, orders or rules which an Act of Parliament allows
legislation the governor-general or a minister to make.
deliberative vote The ordinary vote of a member of a house or a committee (different from the
casting, or deciding, vote of a chairperson).
demand The quantity of any goods which buyers will take at a particular price.
democracy Government by the people, either by them directly, or through elected
representatives. Also a form of society which favours equal rights, freedom of
speech, a fair trial and tolerates the views of minorities.
democratic rights Those which are characterised by the principle of political or social equality for all.
demonstration A public exhibition of protest, or of sympathy with a particular cause.
department A group of public servants organised to administer a particular area of government
activity, under the control of a minister.
departmental head The person in charge of a government department, also called the secretary or
depression A time when economic activity declines. There is often high unemployment, prices
may fall, and many people may be made bankrupt. The Great Depression of the
1930s brought widespread hardship throughout the world.
deputy (of the 1.A person who the governor-general chooses to carry out special duties, such as
governor-general) giving the oath or affirmation of allegiance to Senators and Members.
2.A person who acts for another.
despot 1.An absolute ruler.
2.A tyrant or oppressor.
determination Authoritative decision, rule or arrangement.
dictator A person who has absolute power over a country or state.
dictatorship A country in which one person or group has absolute power to govern.
diplomacy Skill in managing relations between nations or people.
diplomat A person skilled or employed in managing relations between countries.
direct democracy A system of government in which citizens participate in making decisions, often by
voting in referendums or in public assemblies.
directive An order or authoritative instruction.
disallow To refuse to allow, to reject, to make void.
discretionary The right to decide or act according to your own judgement.
discrimination Unfair treatment or laws against particular individuals or groups in society.
disenfranchise To take away a citizen's right to vote.
dispatch boxes Two ornamental boxes which lie upon the table of the House of Representatives and
which once were a storage place for papers.
disqualification 1.Being declared unable to compete because a rule has been broken.
2.Something that prevents or makes a person unsuitable or unfit.
dissent 1.To differ in opinion or disagree.
2.A difference of opinion or disagreement.
dissolve To bring to an end.
dissolve the To bring to an end the life of a House of Parliament and make a new election
distribute 1.To divide into parts.
2.To give out.
district A particular area, region or neighbourhood.
divine right Claim by monarchs such as James I and Charles I that they ruled as God's earthly
division 1.The separation of the members of a law-making body into two groups, for and
2.One of the parts that a country or state is divided into for the purpose of holding
3.A self-contained section or part of an Act.
division of The constitutional allocation of powers and functions between a national parliament
powers and government and State parliaments and governments - the basis of a federal
system of government.
donkey vote A vote where a voter appears to make no choice at all amongst the candidates, usually
by numbering preferences for candidates in the order in which they are listed on the
Dorothy Dix A question asked in parliament by a member at a minister's request, to allow a minister
question to give a prepared reply.
double An order issued by the governor-general dissolving both Houses of Parliament and
dissolution necessitating a new election for all Senators and Members.
draft bill A proposed law.
drafting Directions given to a draftsperson to enable them to prepare a Bill.
draftsperson A person who prepares a Bill.
due process of The correct procedures when a person is charged with a crime.
economy The total activities involved in the production, exchange and consumption of goods
and services within a defined area.
election The choosing of a person or a government by voting.
elector A person who votes or who is eligible to vote.
electoral To do with voters or elections.
Electoral The person who is given the responsibility to arrange for elections to be held and to
Commissioner ensure that the electoral laws are obeyed.
electoral roll A list of the names of all the people who are entitled to vote.
electorate 1.An area represented by a Member of Parliament; a constituency.
2.The group of people who live in an area represented by a Member of Parliament.
3.All the people who have a right to vote in an election.
electorate office The office in a Member of Parliament's electorate or State where the member works
when parliament is not sitting.
electronic media Radio and television organisations or personnel, as distinct from newspaper
organisations and personnel.
emancipist In the early years of the colony of New South Wales, a person whose sentence of
imprisonment had ended, and who had rejoined society.
emblem An object or picture which represents an event, a group or a cause, often in the form
of a badge or shield.
enabling (of an Act, Allowing something to be done which would otherwise not be permissible.
Enabling Act A law which suspends other laws, and allows something previously illegal to be
done. The Enabling Act of 1933 in Germany overturned sections of the Weimar
enact (a Bill) To make into an Act.
enfranchise To give a person the right to vote.
ensign A flag or a banner of a nation.
environmental A study undertaken in order to assess the effect on a specified environment of the
impact study introduction of any new factor which may upset the ecological balance.
equal pay A situation in which people receive equal pay for work of equal value.
equality Treating people fairly.
estimates The amounts of money which the government thinks will be needed to run
government works and services for the year.
estimates Senate committees which meet during two periods each year to look at government
committees spending proposals.
ethnic Pertaining to a population especially to a group of people, racially, historically or
ethnicity The feeling of belonging to a particular racial or cultural group.
Eureka Stockade Uprising of miners on the Ballarat goldfields as a protest against government
abuses. Although the uprising was crushed, democratic political reforms followed
evidence Something seen or heard that may show something else to be true; information
used to prove or establish facts; statements provided.
ex officio By reason of a person's position.
ex-convict A person sent to Australia for punishment who had served their sentence.
exclusive power (of The power that only the Commonwealth Parliament is given by the Constitution, for
the Constitution) example the power to make laws for the whole country on customs and excise
executive The branch of government which carries out or administers the laws; the group of
people from the governing party who make policy and control government
departments, and who are answerable to parliament for the way they run the
Executive Council The council of ministers which advises the governor-general or governor and gives
legal form to Cabinet decisions.
executive The ministers, supported by public servants, who administer the affairs of a country
government or state.
executive power One of the three powers under the Constitution, the others being the legislative
power (exercised by parliament) and the judicial power (exercised by the High Court
and other courts). The executive power is the power to administer the laws, and is
exercised by the governor-general and the governor-general's ministers (usually
referred to as 'the government').
expel A House of Parliament can punish a Member or Senator by declaring that he or she
can no longer sit in the house.
expenditure Spending; the amount spent.
explanatory A paper which explains the purpose and details of Bills or regulations, usually in a
memorandum simple and less technical way.
exports Products sent to other countries for sale
faction A group of people within a larger group, usually a political party.
fair Unbiased; equal treatment.
fair trial A trial conducted legally and free from bias.
fairness Free from bias, dishonesty or injustice.
federal Having to do with the national parliament or government rather than State
parliaments or governments.
Federal Court A court formed by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1977 to make judgements on
certain federal matters and on appeals from State and Territory courts in certain
Federal government The national government of a federation, which shares powers and responsibilities
with State or Territory governments.
federation The forming of a nation by the union of a number of states which give up some of
their powers and responsibilities to a national government.
filibuster The use of long speeches or other tactics in parliament to delay deliberately a vote
financial initiative The rule that only the government can begin the process of setting or increasing
(of the Crown) taxes or of making appropriations - that is, drawing on public or government funds.
financial power (of The power of the parliament to approve all expenditure proposals by the
the parliament) government.
financial year A 12-month period, usually 1 July to 30 June, at the end of which a government or
company balances its accounts and reports on them.
first chamber A name for the lower and usually larger house of legislature.
first reading The first stage in the progress through a house of a Bill, marked by the reading by
the Clerk out loud for the first time of the long title of a Bill, usually straight after it is
presented to the house.
first-past-the-post A way of voting where the candidate who gets the largest number of votes wins,
even if it is less than half the votes cast.
fixed term A term of office which cannot normally be shortened.
flag Piece of cloth, often of various colours or decorated with emblems, which represents
a country or a social group. All countries have flags as one of the symbols of their
floor of the The enclosed area containing Senators' and Members' seats in the chambers of the
Senate/House of Senate and House of Representatives.
foreign affairs A country's relations with other countries.
formal business 1.Business before the Senate on which Senators agree unanimously to make a
decision without debate.
2.Business which concerns the arrangements of a house, and not major issues.
formal vote A vote cast correctly on a ballot paper at an election.
franchise A citizen's right to vote at elections.
free enterprise Trade which is not subject to special regulation or restrictions.
free settler In the early days of the colony of New South Wales, a person who came voluntarily
to settle; not a transported convict.
free trade Trade between different countries, free from governmental restrictions or duties.
free vote A vote in parliament in which members are free to vote according to their own
judgement or beliefs, and not necessarily according to the guidelines, policies or
decisions of their political party.
freedom Personal or civil liberty.
freedom of The principle that citizens should have a right to see most government papers and
information reports, particularly those which relate to their personal affairs.
freedom of speech The right to speak freely on social and political matters without fear of persecution or
freedom ride Method used in the 1960s in the United States to draw attention to the unequal
treatment of African-Americans and then imitated in Australia to highlight the
disadvantages suffered by Aboriginal people. Freedom riders travelled by bus, often
meeting strong opposition from local people.
freehold Full ownership of real property (land) for the life of the owner and, following that,
able to be inherited by his or her heirs.
front bench 1.Those members of parliament who are ministers or shadow ministers.
2.The seats where such members sit.
frontbencher A minister or shadow minister.
Führer The leader, applied especially to Adolf Hitler.
gag A procedure for closing a discussion in a House when some Members still wish to
gazettal The placement of official notices in the Australian Government Gazette, upon which
the public are considered to have been notified.
gender 1.The sex of living things, including people.
2.The identity assigned to people on the basis of their sex.
general business Business before a house which is put forward by Senators or Members who are not
general election An election for all the seats in a lower house of parliament.
gerrymander The drawing of the boundaries of electorates in a way which gives one political
group an unfair advantage in elections by maximising its potential vote.
Gestapo The Secret State Police of Nazi Germany who acted brutally to suppress opposition
to Hitler's regime.
global economy The total activities involved in the production, exchange and consumption of goods
and services on a global scale.
government The system by which the affairs of a state or nation are administered. It also refers
to the ruling party in a state or a nation, which has been elected or appointed to be
in charge of its administration.
government A Member of Parliament who belongs to the governing party or parties, but who is
backbencher not a minister.
government Business of a house which is introduced by a minister.
government The income of a government from taxation, excise duties, customs or other sources,
revenue appropriated to the payment of public expenses.
governor The representative of the Queen in Australia in a State of the Commonwealth of
governor-general The representative of the Queen at the federal level in the Commonwealth of
Governor-General in The Governor-General formally acting with the advice of ministers.
Grand A list of grievances against King Charles I's rule, drawn up and voted on by
Remonstrance Parliament, and presented to the King.
grant Something which is given; such as an amount of money.
grievance A complaint.
guillotine A time limit set on discussion of a Bill.
Hansard The full reports of the speeches of Members of Parliament; the printed record of the
debates in parliament.
Hare-Clark system A system of proportional representation, used in Tasmanian parliamentary elections,
in which each succeeding preference expressed by a voter has less value than his
or her first.
head of state The actual or titular (formal) leader of a country or a group of people organised
under one government.
heritage The culture, traditions and national assets preserved from one generation to
High Court of The court set up under the Commonwealth Constitution to decide matters arising
Australia out of the Constitution, and to hear appeals from the supreme courts of the states
and other federal courts.
honourable A title of Members of Parliament who are members of the Federal Executive Council
(current and former ministers), and for certain other persons, such as the President
of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Honourable A title used for members of the House of Representatives or Senate especially
Member/Senator when one member refers to another.
House of Commons The lower House of Parliament in the United Kingdom and Canada.
House of Lords The upper House of Parliament in the United Kingdom.
House of In Australia and the United States, the House of Parliament elected by the people,
Representatives organised in electorates with approximately equal numbers of voters. It is called the
lower house, and represents the people of the nation.
House of The main reference book on the law, practice and procedure of the House of
Representatives Representatives, edited by JA Pettifer, Clerk of the House of Representatives 1977-
house of review A name often used to refer to the Senate and to the legislative councils of the
States, meaning a house which provides 'a second look' or a close re-examination
of matters which have already been considered in the other house.
how-to-vote card A card or piece of paper handed out at an election by a political party or candidate
showing a voter how the party or candidate would prefer the voter to vote.
human rights The rights which people have as human beings, whether recognised by their
government or not. The first rights in the United Nations Declaration of Human
Rights are the right to life, liberty and security of the person.
Human Rights and A body set up by the Commonwealth Parliament to promote respect for and
Equal Opportunity observance of the human rights of all people in Australia and their access to equal
identity 1.Individual characteristics.
2.Cultural identity - characteristics of a social group.
image The impression a public figure strives to create for the public.
immigration The process of coming into a country of which one is not a native for the purpose of
immunity (of Special legal protection for Members of Parliament to enable them to carry out their
parliamentarians) duties, including protection from legal action for anything they say in parliament.
imports Products brought in from a foreign country for sale or use.
in camera In private or in secret.
in committee The state of a House of Parliament when it has formed itself into a committee of the
whole house, usually to consider the details of a Bill.
in order In accord with the rules, in a correct form or style, as required by parliamentary
inauguration The ceremony which marks a beginning.
income Returns that are received from one's work, property or business or from Social
income tax An amount of money you pay to the government each year, based on how much
money you earn.
independence Freedom from the influence of others.
independent A Member of Parliament who does not belong to a political party.
indigenous Originating in a country.
Indigenous peoples The original inhabitants of a country; also called First Peoples.
inflation Rising prices usually caused by expansion of the issue of paper money or credit.
influence Power to modify, affect or sway.
informal vote In an election, a voting paper which is not counted because it has not been filled in
information Knowledge or news.
initiate To begin, set going or originate.
inquiry An investigation.
institution An organisation set up for a particular purpose.
Inter-Parliamentary An international association of parliaments.
interest group A group of people organised to further some cause or interest which they have in
interjection A remark made to interrupt or respond to a point during a speech.
international law The rules which most countries accept as regulating their behaviour towards one
international A system by which an international body such as the United Nations attempts to arbitrate
security in disputes between countries in an effort to stop wars from breaking out, or imposes
sanctions against countries that threaten their neighbours.
interpret 1.To explain the meaning of.
2.To translate into one language what is said in another.
introduce To start the process of making a bill into law.
invalid Not correct or not legal.
joint committee A committee made up of members of both Houses of Parliament.
joint sitting (of the Both of the Houses of Parliament sitting together to make a decision on a proposed
two houses) law which the two houses, sitting separately, have been unable to agree on.
journalist Someone who writes for a newspaper or magazine, or provides material for radio or
Journals of the The official record of what has been decided in the Senate.
judge 1.Someone whose job is to hear and decide cases in a court of law.
2.Someone who gives an opinion or a decision on the winner of a contest.
judgement The decision in a court case.
judicial Having to do with judges or law courts.
judicial power The power to interpret or apply the law in particular cases; one of the three powers
under the Constitution, the others being the legislative power and the executive
judiciary 1.The branch of government concerned with the administration of justice; the
system of courts and judges.
2.All of the judges.
jury A group of citizens selected from the community to sit in court to hear the evidence
for and against a person accused of a crime, and deliver a verdict as to his or her
guilt or innocence.
justice 1.The principle of what is fair or right.
2.The principle of what is fair or right as administered through the law, for example a
court of justice.
Justice (of the High The title of a judge of the High Court.
kaiser German word for 'king'. Name given to the Hohensollern rulers of Prussia who
became leaders of the united Germany. Wilhelm II, the kaiser during World War I,
abdicated at the end of the war, when Germany became a democracy.
labour movement In Australia, the broad organisation of workers including the trade unions and the
Australian Labor Party.
land rights Term given to the claim of Aboriginal people to own their traditional lands. The Mabo
decision created the term 'native title' to describe this.
landslide An easy win in an election.
law A set of rules, especially those made by a parliament or ruler, recognised by a
community as binding.
law enforcement The process of preventing and dealing with breaches of the law.
lawful Allowed by law.
lawyer A person who conducts cases in a court of law, or who gives advice on legal
matters, usually for a fee.
Leader of the The leader of the government party in the Senate; the government's main
Government in the spokesperson and most senior minister in the Senate.
Leader of the House The government member who arranges and manages government business in a
House of Parliament; the counterpart of the Manager of Government Business in the
Leader of the The leader of the party which is the next largest after the government party and
Opposition which is made up of members who do not support the government.
Leader of the The leader of the opposition party in the Senate; the opposition's main
Opposition in the spokesperson in the Senate, and a leading shadow minister.
League of Nations The first international body to arbitrate in disputes between nations. Its formation
was one of the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I, but
the fact that the United States did not join limited its usefulness, and it was
powerless to stop the aggression of European dictators in the 1930s. A new
organisation, the United Nations, was formed in its place after World War II.
leasehold A form of real estate holding in which a person or corporation has possession of a
property for a fixed period. Once the lease period has ended, the property can be
leased to another person, or the lease can be renewed.
leave (of the Senate The permission of all members present in the chamber at the time to do something
or the House of which otherwise could not be done at that time or in that way.
left The side of politics interested in greater political and economic equality, usually
occupied by socialist and progressive parties, and parties of the workers, such as
the Labor Party.
legal 1.Allowed by or falling within a law; lawful.
2.Having to do with law.
legal rights The rights of all individuals in a society as described in its laws.
legislation 1.A law or a set of laws.
2.The making of laws.
legislative and Committees of the Senate which cover all areas of government activity, and to
general purpose which matters are referred by the Senate for investigation.
Legislative The lower House of Parliament in New South Wales, Queensland (where it is the
Assembly only house), Victoria and Western Australia; called the House of Assembly in South
Australia and Tasmania.
Legislative Council The upper House of Parliament in all states except Queensland, which has only a
legislative power The power to make and change laws; one of the three powers under the
Constitution, the others being the judicial power and the executive power.
legislative process The series of actions which result in a law being made.
legislature The law-making body of a country or state.
letters patent Open letter from sovereign conferring right or title.
levels of Federal, State and local governments.
Liberal Party of A party founded in 1944 by Sir Robert Menzies and others, which developed from
Australia the Liberal Party of 1909, later the Nationalist Party of 1917 and then the United
Australia Party of 1931. The Liberal Party wants more freedom, less government
control, and encouragement of wealth-making so that everyone can enjoy a good
standard of living. It believes strongly in private business and in individuals looking
liberty Freedom from control; the right to act according to choice.
licence fee The fee miners on the goldfields in the 1850s had to pay to be able to work their
claims. Unrest at the way this licence fee was collected led to an uprising by miners
at Ballarat in December 1854, known as the Eureka Stockade.
life (of a parliament) The period of time from the first meeting of a lower house of parliament to the
dissolution (breaking up) or expiry of the house.
living standards The income and living conditions of a people.
lobby A group of people trying to get support for a particular cause; originally those who
used to wait in the entrance hall (lobby) or corridors of parliament to see ministers
lobbying Attempting to influence attitudes or decisions of politicians or governments.
local court A court of law held to judge minor crimes committed in a certain area and settle
local government 1.The management of the affairs of a shire, municipality or town, by people who are
usually elected by the residents of that area.
2.The people who make up such a management group, usually called a council.
local representative Someone in the area in which you live who acts on your behalf or who represents
long title (or title of The full title of a Bill which sets out briefly the purpose or scope of the Bill.
lower house A house of a two-chamber parliament, usually having more members than the upper
house, and whose members usually represent electorates with similar numbers of
voters; the 'popular' or national house to which the government is responsible.
mace Once a weapon of war shaped like a club, and the symbol of royal authority, but
now the symbol of authority of a lower House of Parliament and its Speaker. The
mace is carried by the Serjeant-at-Arms.
Magna Carta Charter of liberty obtained from King John in 1215.
maiden speech The first speech in parliament by a newly elected member. The term 'first speech' is
often used in place of maiden speech.
majority 1.The greater number, or more than half.
2.The age at which the law says you are an adult and can vote in elections.
Manager of The opposition member who represents the interests of the opposition in
Opposition negotiations with the government concerning the business of a house of parliament.
mandate The authority which is assumed by a party winning government to have been given
by voters for the party to implement policies which were the subject of an election
manufacturing Sector of the economy engaged in turning raw materials into manufactured goods.
margin The extra amount (of votes, time, money, etc) over and above the necessary
marginal seat A seat held by a political party by a very narrow margin and so liable to be lost.
market 1.The buying and selling of goods and services.
2.The place where this happens.
3.The demand for a product.
matter of public A subject for discussion which is suggested to a house by a Senator or Member,
importance and which must be supported by a certain number of other Senators or Members.
mayor 1.The head of the corporation of a city or borough.
2.Head of a district council with the status of a borough.
media 1.The means of communication, including radio, television, newspapers and
2.The journalists who work for radio, television, newspapers and magazines.
member 1.A person elected to the House of Representatives or to a State parliament.
2.A person who belongs to or has joined an organisation.
Member of A member of a House of Parliament, usually used to describe a member of a lower
Parliament house and, in Australia, referring to a Member of the House of Representatives, who
have 'MP' shown after their names.
memorial Object, structure, lecture or scholarship erected or founded to remember a certain
person or a group of people or to commemorate an event. There are memorials also
to animals, for example, the memorial to Simpson and his donkey outside the
Australian War Memorial.
message 1.Information sent from one person or group to another through a messenger.
2.The most common form of official communication between the houses.
migrant A person who leaves his or her country of origin to settle in another.
military governor Ruler of the colonies in their early years. He could be a naval officer, such as
Governor Arthur Phillip, or an army officer, such as Governor Lachlan Macquarie.
military rule A situation in which a military officer or officers form the government.
minister A Member of Parliament who is a member of the executive government, and who is
usually in charge of a government department.
ministerial Having to do with a ministry or minister of state.
ministerial The requirement that a minister can be called upon to explain in parliament his or
accountability her actions and those of the department and agencies under his or her control.
ministerial Responsibility to the parliament for actions taken by a minister or on that minister's
ministerial A statement made by a minister to a House of Parliament, often used to announce
statement the government's policies and decisions.
ministry Ministers; the executive government; members from both Houses of Parliament
chosen from the party or coalition of parties with a majority in the lower house to
administer the country, who are formally appointed by the governor-general or
governor as ministers of state.
minority A group of people whose views are different from the views of most other people.
minority A government formed by a party or coalition of parties which does not have a
government majority in the lower house in its own right.
minutes A written record of a meeting.
misbehaviour Wrong or improper conduct.
misrepresent To give an untrue or incorrect account of.
monarch A sole ruler of a country who usually inherits the position, such as a king or queen.
monarchy A state or country in which power is held by a monarch (a king or queen). It is called
an absolute monarchy when the monarch's authority is not limited by laws or a
constitution. It is called a limited or constitutional monarchy when the monarch's
power is limited by a constitution.
money bill A Bill setting a tax or proposing the spending of money for a particular purpose.
monument Something erected in memory of a person or event.
motion An idea or proposal put forward at a meeting or in parliament for consideration,
debate and decision.
move (a motion) To make a formal proposal at a meeting.
multi-member An electorate represented by more than one member.
multiculturalism In Australia, the belief and policy that all residents should be able to live in harmony,
whatever their cultural or ethnic background, based on acceptance of diversity but
also on acceptance of common values such as democracy and the rule of law.
municipal Having to do with a city district that has its own local government.
municipality A town or city district which has its own local government.
Murray Islands A small group of islands in the Torres Strait, over which the late Eddie Mabo and his
associates were granted native title by the High Court of Australia.
NAIDOC National Aboriginal and Islander Day of Observance Committee. (See National
Aboriginal and Islander Day of Observance.)
name (a Member) The presiding officer in a House of Parliament identifies a Member (I name the
Honourable Member for X); if this Member offends again, this Member may be
nation A group of people who think of themselves as a community which has or thinks it
should have its own government. (They may speak the same language or have the
national Having to do with the nation as a whole.
National Aboriginal Originally celebrated on 26 January 1938 as the 'Day of Mourning' to protest at the
and Islander Day of European occupation of Aboriginal territory in Australia. The celebration now
Observance extends over the first week in July every year and is known as NAIDOC Week (see
NAIDOC). Many events are held to mark the participation of Aboriginal people in
national court Court of law which deals with cases at the national level, after they have been
referred from lower courts.
National Party of A party formed in 1920 as the Australian Country Party, later called the National
Australia Country Party, and then the National Party of Australia. For most of its history, the
National Party has worked in coalition with the Liberal Party, in both opposition and
government. The leader of the National Party always becomes deputy prime
minister when this coalition wins government. As part of the coalition the National
Party supports Liberal Government policies, but safeguards the interests of farmers
and country people and upholds traditional values.
nationalise To bring under the control or ownership of a government.
nationalism 1.The belief that a people are or should be a nation with its own government.
2.The policy of asserting the interests of a nation against other nations, or the
common interests of all nations.
3.National spirit or devotion to the interests of one's nation.
native title A form of title which recognises the long-term traditional relationship of Indigenous
people to their land.
Nazi Party The National Socialist German Workers' party which in 1933, under Adolf Hitler,
obtained political control of Germany.
negotiation A discussion between parties to reach an agreement.
no The word used for showing disagreement, and for voting against a motion in
no confidence A means by which a house expresses dissatisfaction with the performance of a
(motion or vote of) government or a minister.
noes The votes of Members in a House who vote 'no'.
non-government A political group or party which does not support the government.
non-partisan Not aligned to a political party; not biased or one-sided; neutral.
notice of motion An announcement of intention to put forward a motion for consideration, nearly
always for a later day.
notice paper The document issued each sitting day which lists all outstanding business before a
house of parliament.
oath A solemn promise using God's name, such as a promise to speak the truth in a
court of law.
oath of allegiance A declaration, using God's name, made by members of parliament stating that they
will be loyal to the Queen.
Office of An office of legal experts who draft or prepare proposals for new laws.
office-holder (of the A Member of Parliament who holds an official position in the parliament, such as the
parliament) President or the Speaker.
officer (of the A permanent career official or employee of one of the parliamentary departments
Parliament) which provide support services for the Commonwealth Parliament.
official 1.Someone with a rank or who has authority to do a particular job.
2.Properly approved or arranged.
oligarchy A form of government in which power is held by a small number of people belonging
to a dominant class or group.
ombudsman A public official with the responsibility of investigating complaints against the
government or the Public Service.
one-person rule A country or state in which all power rests with one person.
open government A principle of government under which citizens are given maximum opportunity to
know about government decisions and the reasons for those decisions, and where
citizens have a right to see most government papers and reports.
opening speech (at A speech by the Queen, or her representative, the governor-general, in which the
the opening of reasons for the calling together of parliament are given, the affairs of the country are
parliament) reviewed and the government's plans for new laws are outlined.
operation 1.The way that something works.
opposition The second largest political party or coalition of parties after the government party in
a lower House of Parliament which works to oppose what it believes to be wrong in
government policies or actions, and which stands ready to form a government
should the voters so decide at the next election.
opposition A Member of Parliament who belongs to the opposition party or parties, and who is
backbencher not a shadow minister.
optional preferential A system where for the election of one candidate, the voter need only indicate a
system preference for the candidate of his or her choice, but may also mark a preference for
all or some of the remaining candidates on the ballot paper.
order (in Correct or proper actions or conduct in meetings of a house or committee.
order (of the Senate A decision of the Senate or the House of Representatives by which the houses
or the House of direct their committees, members, officers, and their own actions.
order of business 1.A program or agenda which shows the items of business which the Senate is
expected to deal with on a particular day.
2.The sequence of business.
order of the day An item of business which the Senate or the House of Representatives has ordered
to be set down for discussion on a particular day, usually the next day of sitting.
ordinance A rule or regulation; a territorial law.
organisation People who work together on a task.
organisational wing The part of a political party, usually its administration, which is outside parliament.
(of a political party)
out of order Not in accordance with recognised parliamentary
pacifism The belief that violence, especially war, must be avoided and that individuals should
refuse to participate in war.
pair An arrangement between parties whereby two members from opposing sides of a
house do not vote on a particular occasion, so that one or both can be absent
without affecting the result of the vote.
paper A report or document presented to a House of Parliament.
parliament An assembly of elected representatives which forms the legislature of a state or a
nation. It may have both an upper and a lower house, or one house only.
Parliament House The building where the two Houses of Parliament meet.
parliamentarian An elected member of either a State or the Commonwealth Parliament, in either the
upper or lower house. In Australia, may be a member of the House of
Representatives or the Senate in the Commonwealth Parliament.
parliamentary Having to do with parliament.
parliamentary A small group of Members of Parliament, usually drawn from all parties in one or
committee both of the houses, which studies, reports on, and makes recommendations about a
parliamentary A system of government in which power is in the hands of the people, who exercise
democracy their power through elected representatives in parliament.
parliamentary A system of government in which the executive government is answerable to the
government parliament, in which the government is formed from members of the parliament, and
in which the parliament is supreme - it can 'make or break' governments.
parliamentary Rules for and methods of carrying out the business of a House of Parliament.
parliamentary The area in Canberra enclosed by Commonwealth Avenue, the southern shore of
triangle Lake Burley Griffin, Kings Avenue and Capital Circle, in which Parliament House is
situated and over which the Parliament has certain regulatory powers.
parliamentary wing Those people from a political party who have been elected to parliament.
(of a political party)
participation Joining in, or sharing in an activity.
participation rate The number of people, working for pay, expressed as a percentage of the
party committee A group of Members of Parliament from the same political party who look at a
particular area of government or opposition policy, and assist their party to make
decisions on laws and other matters connected with that area of policy.
party discipline The control used by a political party to encourage its members in parliament to vote
together, for example party discipline in Australia is almost total, with members of
the major parties rarely voting against their party.
party policy What a political party believes in and plans to do.
party room A room where the parliamentary members of a political party hold meetings.
party-political Having to do with the affairs or interests of a political party, sometimes to the benefit
of a party instead of the benefit of the public.
pastoralist A person who raises livestock on a large rural property.
penal colony A colony founded for the purpose of taking convicted criminals away from their
homeland to an isolated place for a term of imprisonment. British penal colonies
were located in North America, then in Australia. France had penal colonies in the
People's Charter Petition to the British Parliament which demanded the following democratic reforms
- manhood suffrage, secret ballot, equal electorates, payment of Members of
Parliament, no property qualifications for Members of Parliament, and annual
parliaments. Most of the reforms had been achieved by the end of the nineteenth
century in Australia.
people's house A name often used to refer to the House of Representatives and other lower houses
personal A short statement made by a Senator or Member concerning a matter with which he
explanation or she is personally connected, or by a Senator or Member who feels he or she has
been misrepresented and who wishes to state the correct facts or situation.
petition A document presented to a House of Parliament by a person or group of people
asking for action on a matter; a formal request, especially to a person or a group in
Petition of Right In 1628, the British Parliament passed a Petition of Right in protest against actions
of King Charles I. The petition said there should be no taxes without Parliament's
consent, no imprisonment without cause, no quartering of soldiers on subjects
(making people have soldiers to stay in their homes), and no martial law in
pharaoh Title of a ruler of ancient Egypt; an Egyptian king or queen.
philosophy 1.A system or study of knowledge, ideas and ways of thinking.
2.Rules for or approach to life.
plank A single policy; an aim or objective of a political party or candidate, forming part of
the party's or candidate's platform.
platform Policies or plans of a political party or candidate or a collection of such policies or
plebiscite A vote by all voters on a question; a referendum; a vote by members of a party to
decide on a candidate or select a delegate.
pledge A solemn promise to do a particular thing. Also means security for something.
point of order A question as to whether proceedings in a meeting are in accord with the rules or in
the correct form.
policy An aim or a plan of action on a matter.
political Dealing with the distribution of power or connected with a political party.
political agenda The topics which are being discussed or dealt with in politics at any one time.
political freedom A person's right to express his or her political beliefs freely, and to vote as he or she
political ideology The system of ideas that underlies the aims and program of a political party.
political party A group of people with similar ideas or aims, some of whose members stand at
elections in the hope that they will form or influence the government.
political rights The rights that allow a person to participate in political life. They include the right to
vote, the right to hold particular political views, and the right to join a political party
and influence public life.
political values The principles people believe should operate in the governing of their society. They
can include equality, liberty, tolerance and diversity.
politician A person who is active in politics, who might hold a political office into which he or
she has been voted in an election.
politics 1.The business of governing a country.
2.The activities involved in gaining or using power.
polity An organised society; a political unit and its system of government.
poll 1.A count of people, votes or opinions.
2.To ask and record the opinion of.
3.To receive a number of votes.
polling An organised procedure of voting.
polling booth A small compartment or cubicle where people fill in their voting papers in secret at
polling day The day on which people vote in an election.
portfolio The area of responsibility or duties of a minister in a government; the department for
which a minister is responsible.
power 1.Control over others, especially the control that governments have.
2.The right of a government to act in a particular area; for example, the
Commonwealth has power over defence and the States over the police.
powers (under the The three types of authority - legislative, executive and judicial - provided under the
Constitution) Australian Constitution.
practice The usual way of doing something, a habit or custom.
prayer (of a petition) The request at the end of a petition which indicates what the petitioners want.
prayers Prayers said at the beginning of a sitting of a house.
precedent 1.What has been done before as a guide to what should be done now.
2.A legal decision which courts will follow in future similar cases.
preferential voting A system of voting in which a voter shows an order of preference for candidates,
giving the number one to his or her first choice and the last number to the last
prejudice Unwillingness to give equal or fair treatment to a certain group in society.
president 1.The chief officer in an organisation, who presides at meetings.
2.The head of a republic.
3.The person elected to be the presiding officer of the Senate or State legislative
President of the The Senator who is elected by the Senate as its presiding officer.
President's chair The high-backed seat on which the President of the Senate sits. The chair is made
of Canadian maple and was given to the Senate by the Government of Canada in
presiding officer (of A Member of Parliament elected to preside over, or be in charge of, the business,
the parliament) proceedings and administration of a House of Parliament and in the State lower
houses. In the Senate the presiding officer is called the President, and in the House
of Representatives, the Speaker.
press conference A meeting between a person and reporters from newspapers, radio and television,
usually so the person can make an announcement or answer questions.
press gallery 1.A gallery in a House of Parliament reserved for the press.
2.The area in a House of Parliament set aside for accommodation for reporters from
newspapers, radio and television (the media).
press release An announcement, statement or item of news prepared for and given to the press.
presumption of When a court treats a person charged with a crime as not having done it until the
innocence case against them is proved.
prime minister The head of the national government, the chief minister in some countries, including
private member A Member of Parliament who is not a minister.
proceedings (of a The formal actions and decisions of a House of Parliament.
proclamation An official public announcement.
production The making of things or the growing of crops for sale.
project A plan or an undertaking.
property The amount of property you had to own or rent in order to be allowed to vote.
proportional A system where the ballot paper is divided into two parts, separated by a heavy
optional black line. A voter may vote either by numbering every candidate below the line, to
preferential system indicate the order of his or her preferences, or by marking a square above the line to
indicate that he or she wishes to adopt the group voting ticket lodged by the party
proportional A voting system, such as that used in Senate elections, based on multi-member
representation electorates, designed to make sure that the number of successful candidates from
each party reflects as closely as possible the total vote for that party as a proportion
of all the valid votes cast in an election.
proposed law The term sometimes used to describe a Bill, for example, in the Constitution.
prorogue (the To end a session of parliament and so discontinue meeting of the houses until the
parliament) next session without an election intervening.
prosecution 1.Legal proceedings against a person charged with a crime.
2.The group of people who carry out these legal proceedings.
protection Protection of a country's industries by restricting imports, or encouraging local
industry with subsidies.
protest A public statement of disapproval of an action or situation; a demonstration against
an individual or against the action of governments or others.
public 1.Open or known to all people.
2.The people as a whole, the people of a community, state or nation.
3.Concerning the public.
public gallery An area in a House of Parliament set aside for the public
public A day set aside from work by order of the government. Some public holidays may be the same
holiday across Australia, for example, Australia Day, ANZAC Day, Christmas and Easter. Individual
States and Territories also have their own public holidays, for example, Melbourne Cup Day
and Show Day in Victoria, Canberra Day in the Australian Capital Territory.
public A course or line of action pursued by a government, ruler or political party.
public A member of the public service; a person employed by the government in a department of
public The departments and people who work for them responsible for putting into effect government
service policy and decisions, and legislation passed by parliament.
put the Ask for a decision on a motion.
question 1.A matter to be debated and voted on.
2.A request for information.
question on notice A written question asked of a minister which is answered in writing.
question time A daily period of time in a House of Parliament in which ministers are asked
questions concerning their responsibilities by other members.
question without A question asked orally of a minister where the minister usually has no warning of
notice the content of the question.
quorum The minimum number of people that have to be present to constitute a meeting; the
minimum number of Members that have to be present for a house or committee to
be able to conduct business and make decisions.
race 1.A major group of human beings, having distinct physical characteristics.
2.A tribe, nation etc regarded as having a distinct ethnic ancestry.
racial discrimination Unfair treatment of an individual or group because of their racial or ethnic origin.
Racial This 1975 Commonwealth legislation was passed to outlaw any acts which
Discrimination Act discriminate against any Australians on the basis of race.
racism The belief that one race of people is superior or inferior to another, and that people
of different races should not be treated equally.
radical Favouring fundamental political, social or other reforms.
reading (of a Bill) A formal stage in the passage of a Bill through a House of Parliament.
rebellion Open, organised and often armed resistance to one's government or ruler.
recess The period between sessions of parliament, but in ordinary usage the word is often
used to describe the longer periods of time between meetings of a house.
recommit (a Bill) To send a Bill back to a committee of the whole so that all or part of the Bill can be
looked at again.
redistribution A new division of an area into electorates with the result that the boundaries of
some existing electorates are moved.
redistribution Persons chosen by the governor-general who periodically redistribute electoral
commissioners boundaries to ensure each electorate has roughly the same number of voters.
reference Something that has been referred to a committee for consideration and report; a
subject being considered by a committee.
referendum A vote by all voters on a question; in Australia, nearly always a public vote on a
proposed law to alter the Constitution.
reformer A person who seeks to bring about change especially political change.
regulation A law made under the authority of an Act of Parliament.
Reichstag The name of the German Parliament under Hitler. Also the building in which the
report (from a A statement given orally to the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House
committee of the of Representatives by the Chairman of Committees of the relevant house on the
whole) results of a committee of the whole's consideration of a Bill or other matter.
representative A person who acts on behalf of others; person elected to a law-making body.
representative A system of government in which electors choose representatives to make decisions
democracy for them.
republic A state in which citizens rule themselves and do not have a monarch.
request (for an The Senate's act of asking the House of Representatives to make an amendment to
amendment) certain financial Bills which, under the Constitution, the Senate cannot amend itself.
resignation The act of giving up a position.
resistance A secret organisation which keeps on fighting against a foreign enemy or against a
dictator to whom they are opposed.
responsibilities A range of obligations for which a person or people must be able to account. For
example, a treasurer is responsible for how money is spent or saved, and must be
able to give an account of how this has been done.
responsible A system where the government is answerable to elected representatives of the
government people for its actions, especially a system where the government is formed from the
party or parties which has the support of a majority of the lower house (in Australia
the House of Representatives), and must maintain the confidence of a majority of
revenue Incoming money; the money a government collects from taxes and other sources.
revolution A complete overthrow of an established government or political system.
right The conservative side of politics. Generally the political party or parties which either
support the way things are now, or want to return to past ways of doing things. It can
also mean a political party which favours the free enterprise system over a socialist
Right Honourable A title of Members of Parliament and other persons who are members of the Privy
Council, a body in the United Kingdom which advises the sovereign.
rights A series of claims which are recognised as just and fair by society. They can include
legal rights, political rights, social rights and human rights.
Robson rotation A system which involves the rotation of candidate's positions on the ballot paper to
avoid the effects of a 'donkey' vote. At regular intervals in the printing process, the
candidate at the top of the ballot paper is moved to the bottom and the next
candidate moves up to the top. This is repeated so all candidates have a turn at the
rotation (of The constitutional provision that one half of the places of Senators from the states
Senators) become vacant each three years. As Senators have a term of six years, this ensures
continuity in the membership of the Senate.
Roundheads A nickname for the military forces of Parliament during the English Civil War. These
soldiers were called this because their hair was cut short, unlike the long curling hair
of their opponents, the Royalist forces or Cavaliers.
royal assent The signing of a Bill by the Queen's representative (the governor-general in the case
of the Commonwealth Parliament, the governor in the case of State parliaments),
which is the last step in making a Bill into an Act of Parliament, or law.
royal commission A person or persons chosen by a government to inquire into and report on a matter
of public concern.
rule of law A society in which everyone is equal before the law, and no one is above the law. In
a society with the rule of law, even a president or a monarch can be tried for
breaking the law, and the government is subject to the law.
ruler A person who rules or governs. Often used to describe an absolute monarch or a
rules Regulations governing conduct or behaviour.
ruling (of the A formal decision made by a President or Speaker, usually on a matter of procedure
President or in the house.
run (in an election) To stand as a candidate for election
safe seat An electorate in which the support for a member or party is so strong that the
member or representative of that party is very likely to be elected.
schedule (to a Bill A list at the end of a Bill or Act which contains matters of detail.
scrutinise To inspect the counting of votes by electoral officers on behalf of a candidate at an
seat A place in a House of Parliament.
secession To withdraw formally from an alliance or association, as from a political organisation,
especially from a federation of states.
second a motion To support formally a proposal put forward at a meeting or in parliament so that it
can be considered.
second chamber A name which is sometimes used to refer to an upper house such as the Senate.
second reading (of The second stage of the passage of a Bill through a house at which time discussion
a Bill) on the principle or purpose of the bill takes place.
secret ballot A system of voting which allows voters to cast their votes privately, so that they
cannot be influenced or pressured to vote in a certain way.
secretary (of a A public servant who is the head of a government department.
secretary (of a A parliamentary officer who looks after the support arrangements for a
parliamentary parliamentary committee, including correspondence, record-keeping, research and
committee) arrangements for meetings where people give evidence, and who often prepares
the first draft of a committee's report.
section (of an Act) A separate numbered item in an Act of Parliament.
segregation Separation of one racial group from another, for example former segregated
schooling, transport and other public facilities in the southern United States; South
Africa's former apartheid system; former exclusion of Aboriginal people from
swimming pools in NSW.
select committee A group of members from either house or both houses, appointed to inquire into and
report on a particular subject. A select committee ceases to exist when it has made
its final report to the house or houses.
self-government 1.Political independence of a country, people or region.
2.A people ruling themselves; in Australia refers to colonies controlling their internal
affairs while Britain remained in charge of their external affairs.
Senate In Australia and the United States, the House of Parliament which represents the
states in the federation. Each state, no matter how big or small it is, has the same
number of Senate seats.
Senator A member of the Australian Senate.
Serjeant-at-Arms An officer of a lower House of Parliament (and carrier of the mace) who carries out
the orders of the house, such as accompanying a Member who is directed by the
house to leave the chamber, and who assists to keep order in Parliament House.
service industry An activity which does not produce manufactured or primary products, but delivers
services to people. Service industries include hospitality, tourism, business services,
and medical and nursing services.
services (applied to Jobs in which people provide a service to other people such as real estate, banking,
types of work) restaurants and shops.
session A parliamentary period which starts on the first day of sitting after an election or
prorogation and ends at a prorogation or a dissolution of the lower house.
sessional order A temporary rule governing the conduct of business in a House of Parliament, which
applies only for the session in which it is made.
sexuality The sexual character of a person. Heterosexuality is having sexual relations with
members of the opposite sex. Homosexuality is having sexual relations with
members of the same sex.
Shadow Cabinet The group of members of the main opposition party or parties in parliament who act
as party spokespersons on the principal areas of government.
shadow minister A member of the shadow ministry. Shadow ministers 'shadow', or follow closely, the
areas of responsibility of ministers in the government.
shire A local government.
short title (of a Bill) The name of a Bill by which it is commonly known and indexed.
simple majority In parliaments, more than half of the total votes of the members present and voting.
sittings Meetings of a House of Parliament.
slavery A situation in which a person is not free, but is owned by another person and can be
bought and sold, and made to work against their will. Slavery was once widespread,
but was made illegal in most parts of the world in the nineteenth century. It
continues in some places.
Social Democratic A left-wing democratic party in Germany which opposed the Nazi Party.
social harmony Social and political peace in a community, region or country.
social rights The rights that allow a person to have a decent standard of living. They include the
right to housing, employment, good nutrition and health care.
social security Payments from the government to people in need, such as the unemployed.
social welfare The provision to people in need by government of payments and services such as
housing and hospitals.
socialism A system of society in which the community has ownership of the businesses and the
society Individuals living as members of a community, including the members of a nation.
Can also mean a group of people who come together to achieve a particular goal,
such as the Wilderness Society, or the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
sovereign A king or queen; a monarch.
Speaker The Member who is elected by a lower House of Parliament as its presiding officer.
Speaker's chair The high-backed seat with a canopy, used by the Speaker of the House of
Representatives. The chair is an exact copy of the original House of Commons
Speaker's chair in the United Kingdom, and was given to the House by the United
Kingdom Parliament in 1926.
spokesperson Someone who speaks on behalf of another person or other people.
squatter In nineteenth-century Australia, a person who took up crown land, at first illegally, for
sheep and cattle grazing.
standing A group of Members of Parliament appointed by either house or both houses to
committee inquire into and report on certain matters. A standing committee exists for the life of a
parliament and is usually reappointed in succeeding parliaments.
standing orders The permanent rules which govern the conduct of business in a House of Parliament.
state 1.The system by which a people in a particular territory are governed.
2.Any of the regions, each more or less independent in internal affairs, which together
make up a federal union, such as any of the States of Australia.
state court A court at state level, to which cases are referred from lower courts such as district or
State government The government at a State level as distinct from a federal or local level.
statement A declaration, for example, in a House of Parliament.
States' house A term often used to describe the Senate, meaning the elected House of Parliament
set up to maintain and protect the interests of the states.
states' rights The powers or entitlements of states in a federal system.
statute law Law passed by parliament as distinct from common law.
statutory authority A government agency set up by an Act of Parliament, more or less independent of
day-to-day ministerial control, usually not bound by public service procedures to the
same extent as ordinary departments, and which is responsible finally to parliament.
strategy A plan to achieve a goal by good management. Also means planning and directing
strike To stop work to demonstrate or to demand an employer meets workers' demands.
sub judice Under consideration or awaiting consideration by a court of law.
subject Someone who lives under the rule of a monarch.
submission (to a Suggestions or arguments made orally or in writing to some authority such as a
committee) house, a committee or a court; a written paper placed before a committee for
suffrage The right to vote.
suffragist Someone who wanted women to have the vote.
supply Bill A Bill which, if passed, will allow the government to spend money on the requirements
Supreme Court The highest court of appeal in the United States. Also interprets the Constitution of
(USA) the United States.
suspend (a To remove a Senator or Member from a house for a set time as punishment for
Senator or disorderly conduct.
swinging voter A person who transfers his or her support (vote) from one political party to another at
symbol Something which represents an idea which is otherwise difficult to picture; for
example, the Coat of Arms represents the Australian nation.
table To present a document etc to a House of Parliament by laying it on the table in front
of the President's or Speaker's chair.
tariff A duty on imported goods, designed to protect local primary and secondary
taxation Money that has to be paid to a government and levied on incomes, property, goods
teller A person, usually a Whip, chosen to count or 'tell' the members voting in a division.
term A limited period of time during which an office is held.
terms of reference A matter referred for inquiry to a committee; the scope for activity and investigation
open to a committee.
terra nullius Latin, meaning 'land belonging to no one' or 'empty' or 'uninhabited land'. Australia
was considered to be a terra nullius in the early years of European occupation
because its Indigenous people did not use the land in the same way as Europeans
did, by building towns and cities and farming the land in European fashion.
territory 1.In the federal system of government, an area which has not been given the full
rights of a State, for example the Australian Capital Territory and Northern
2.The land and waters under the control of a state or ruler.
3.Any region or area of land.
third reading (of a The final stage in the passage of a Bill through a House of Parliament.
trade union An association of workers in a trade or industry who band together to protect their
working conditions and negotiate wages and conditions with employers.
tradition A belief, custom or practice which is handed down from one generation to another.
traditional A situation in which land has been held by Indigenous people continuously, or in
ownership which they can claim ceremonial and social attachments to the land.
treason A betrayal by a citizen of his or her loyalty to the state or the sovereign. Giving
secret government documents to an enemy is an act of treason, particularly in
treasurer The government minister responsible for economic and financial policy, and who
prepares the government's budget; the minister in charge of the Treasury (the
department of government which has control over public revenue).
treaty A formal agreement between two or more independent nations concerning peace, alliance, trade
or international relations.
trial An examination of a person in a court of law to determine their guilt or innocence.
tyranny Uncontrolled exercise of power, often by an oppressive or unjustly severe government or a ruler.
tyrant An absolute ruler who uses his or her power unjustly or oppressively.
unconstitutional Contrary to, or inconsistent with, the constitution or the recognised principles of the
constitutional law of a country.
unemployment A situation in which a person is out of work. In times of high unemployment many
people have difficulty in finding work.
unicameral Consisting of one chamber or house, especially of a law-making body.
United Nations An international organisation founded after World War II to try to achieve
international security by providing arbitration for conflicts between countries, as well
as assistance to refugees and many health, development and cultural programs.
United Nations The key statement of human rights today. It was written in 1948 in response to the
Universal genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany.
unparliamentary Words used in a house which the chair judges to be offensive or disorderly, and
language which are usually required to be withdrawn.
upper house The second house in a two-chamber parliament. It has fewer members than the
lower house and they are usually elected for longer terms and from larger
electorates. It checks and reviews legislation coming from the lower house and is
known as the house of review.
urgency motion A motion moved in the Senate which enables discussion of a matter of concern, and
which must be supported by a certain number of Senators.
Usher of the Black An officer of the Department of the Senate in Australia (named after the black rod he
Rod or she carries) who has special duties on ceremonial occasions such as the opening
of parliament, and who assists in keeping order in Parliament House.
vacancy An unoccupied position or office.
vice-regal Concerning or having to do with a person appointed as a deputy by a king or queen;
having to do with a person acting in place of a king or queen, or representing a king
volunteer A person who gives their services free of charge, often to help others. Also means a
person who offers to do something before being asked to do it.
vote 1.A formal expression of a choice, such as putting one's hand up or marking a piece
2.The total number of votes.
voter Someone who votes; someone who has a right to vote.
Votes and The official record of what has been decided in the House of Representatives.
Proceedings of the
voting A formal expression of choice in some matter signified by voice or by ballot.
wealth 1.All the things a person owns.
2.The total amount of goods and services in a country.
welfare Money and goods provided by governments and private agencies for those who
cannot earn them by their own efforts due to illness, age, unemployment or
disability. Also means the well-being of all.
Westminster 1.The Houses of Parliament in London.
2.The City of Westminster in London where the Houses of Parliament (the Palace of
Westminster) are located.
Westminster system A system of government originating in Britain, the main features of which are: a
head of state who is not the head of government and an executive which is drawn
from and which is directly responsible to the parliament (the parliament is supreme).
Whip A party manager in parliament who is responsible for organising members of his or
her party to take part in debates and votes, and who assists in arranging the
business of a House of Parliament.
White Australia Until the late 1960s, Australia had national government policies to deny permanent
Policy entry to non-whites.
witness (before a A person who gives evidence to a parliamentary committee.
workforce All the people who work in a country, or in an industry or on a particular task.
Usually means the paid workforce - those who are employed in a job - but also
includes volunteers on a project.
working class People who are manual workers and labourers.
working conditions Hours of work, physical conditions, legal rights and responsibilities in the workplace.
writs (for an Formal orders, issued by the governor-general in the case of Members of the House
election) of Representatives, and state governors in the case of state Senators, requiring that
an election be held; governors issue writs for state elections.